Cocktails is the trailer for a show that was never made because this world is an unceasing tragic parade of missed opportunities and live-action anime adaptations. It’s a teaser for an epic gay drama made by a man named Ron Merk, who looks like an excommunicated Keebler Elf (the cracker and flatbread elves are a notoriously repressed people). Instead of just shopping an idea around, Merk decided he was going to make a seven minute testament to unintentional comedy. It’s going to seem like Too Many Cooks set in The Stud, but I promise you: This is completely real and totally earnest. Ron Merk is still trying to get this made, and if there’s any justice in this world, he will succeed.
It’s always recommended that you read Teamworking Days stripped down to your 1-900-🌭 Official Rubber Panties (Unisex) but that’s doubly true today because this article is going to be…
Brockway: Don’t give up in the first few minutes where Ron Merk just tells the extremely boring story behind the inception of Cocktails, which is that he discovered the San Francisco gay bar scene late in life and mistakenly assumed he’d uncovered a secret society, instead of a punchline from a 1997 Bob Saget standup routine. It’s worth watching just to hear Merk reverently tell of that time a friend demanded he call his show about gay bartender stories Cocktails. I don’t know if Ron doesn’t get the pun, or if he thinks the pun is deeper than it is, but he delivers that line with absolutely no humor. He reads that one line so straight that if his family could see it, they’d finally invite him back to the knothole for Elvesgiving.
Seanbaby: So the entire sizzle reel is a pointless explanation of how this was once a reality show project about gay bartenders. Maybe after seeing how the life of a Castro bartender is a single gasp of air every 700 vodka stingers, the producer thought, “What if we just made a show with actors?” And then he thought, “What if instead of only being about sassy men of leisure, it was about everything.”
The preview then does something I’ve never seen before– instead of setting up the plot or showing exciting moments, it introduces every single character and teases every single one of their mysterious secrets. It is an onslaught of drama without context starring the Bay Area’s most available community theater actors. It is a blinding, unfiltered look inside an uncreative mind’s proudest ideas. By the end, you’ll start to see the show’s plot form, but this seems to be entirely by accident. We should just get started because there are four million of them and the less you know going in the better. Here are The Characters of Cocktails, unedited and in their entirety:
Seanbaby: The very first character we meet is Detective Chuck O’Brien, whose only complications are his uncontrollable horniness and his obsession to catch a serial killer. His eyes dart in every direction. He’s going to get himself San Francisco’s most elusive murderer or a soft-lipped twink, whichever he sees first.
Brockway: That porkpie hat and soul patch combo is also out of control, Chuck. This was filmed in 2011, well past the sexpiration date for husky narcs into Reel Big Fish. I love how Chuck frantically looks in every direction when the subtitles mention a serial killer. Like he’s going to be in eyeshot. Clearly Ron Merk told the City College of San Francisco’s 17th greatest actor to pretend like he’s looking for something, and wisely cut the take where Chuck mimed pulling out a giant spyglass and tracking imaginary footprints.
Seanbaby: This guy’s backstory is that he fucks too much to be a pop singer. I can’t tell if that’s good writing, or the best writing.
Brockway: Oh man, one of these characters is into hard drugs and sex? What compelling drama! I look forward to exploring his downward spiral as others around him struggle with their own issues, unable to relate to his addictions.
Seanbaby: I bet someone in 1990 would feel comfortable making a joke about the show’s only African American faking a gender transition to trick her drug dealer. All I have to offer is, “You named the black character Jet? Were there no copies of Hype Hair in your cardiologist’s office?”
Brockway: This is what’s beautiful about Cocktails, and also why we have 73 characters left to go. Nothing is left off the page. If there’s a drug dealer hunting Jet, he’s a character. Now he’s in the show. He gets his own two-slide bio that maybe mentions how he left his keys with a valet. Now the valet’s in the show. He wants to be the battleprince of gay roller derby, but his rival, Skate Winslet, will not let that happen. Now Skate Winslet’s in the show, and he’s got a terrible secret, he’s actually Quince Waithwhite, billionaire heir to-
Brockway: “Hey, so I only got like four seconds to show this guy haunted by guilt and the suicide of his son. How should I frame this? Just have him standing inches behind a young man and staring intently? Yeah, that’s probably the best way to communicate that complicated emotion in this trailer featuring 47 other gay men staring lustily at each other’s backs.”
Seanbaby: “Okay, ladies, that’s three blended margaritas and I miss my boy. You want me to run the card or hold onto it because it’s my fault he’s dead? Cheers, girls, and as memories fade, how much longer will I still hear his voice?”
Brockway: And now you see where Cocktails starts to go off the cockrails. What kind of childhood accident turns you into a smoldering doppelganger? What kind of bartender can only mimic the actions of others? How does anybody get a drink and not just a mocking impression of their own order? I’m being too hard on Skip. Skip is the life of every party, since his Mimic ability allows you to doublecast Meteo.
Seanbaby: I hope Skip is central to the show. Do his powers only work for celebrity impressions, or could he rob a bank after staring at the world’s greatest safecracker? I’d love it if every episode’s B-plot was Skip stumbling into football games or pit fights. At first he would look confused and helpless, but then the camera would push in on his smirk. He’s seen everything he needs. He could save the bar by making a high-stakes bet against Brian Boitano who would say, “Impossible! W-who taught you how to dance on the ice like that?” And Skip would smirk, “You just did.” Holy shit, maybe his power could also work on motorcycles?
Brockway: I know this show hasn’t even happened yet, but Skip needs his own spin-off. I would absolutely devour the weekly adventures of Skip Slippins: Homosexual Copycat.
Brockway: One of the best things about Cocktails is how they slip a dud in there once in a while just to keep the pacing from going flat. If every single character is slamming dope straight into their eyeballs just to get the energy they need to strip for the Pope, you might get bored with it. You need a break from the drama just so you can appreciate it better. Jed Peterson is here to give you that break.
Seanbaby: Yeah, I didn’t even fucking write a joke for Jed and Austin.
Brockway: I have a theory that most of the duds are here to be cannon fodder to up the stakes. Beau Boudreau will make it to the very last episode on the strength of that name alone, but I promise you Merrick Da Silva will die in episode 3 just to teach Skip that you can mimic a lot of things, but can you mimic… love?
Seanbaby: Let’s say you met a stranger in a men’s room who offered to take you to dinner and then spent the entire meal bringing you to climax with his foot before holding you close all night. If after four days of sharing stories and making love you said, “Buddy, what’s with all the Adam Lambert songs on your playlist? Are we using your girlfriend’s iTunes or something?” you would have better gaydar than MERRICK DA SILVA’s wife.
Brockway: She’s sharing this on Facebook with the caption “my beautiful man just goofing around with his friends!” She pretends to laugh at all the eggplant emojis, but they haunt her. They do haunt her.
Brockway: So if I’m reading this right, Flavio is a stage persona that itself has a drag queen persona? We’re doing meta-personas? This counts exponentially, Cocktails. This is like sixteen characters. You’ve burned sixteen characters on Mocha De La Creme.
Seanbaby: I’ve never seen a screenshot that so clearly says, “Ay, you know what it’s like growing up gay and Latino with eleven sisters? Snap, what, they treated Flavio exactly like one of the girls! Oh, but they remembered Flavio was a boy when they needed something heavy lifted, right? It’s like, AYUDA AYUDA, FLAVIO! I FELL IN THE TOILET, FLAVIO! Um, heh, that’s not the kind of wet asshole Flavio is interested in, Abuelita! Snap, what? Ay ay ay, THAT’S an hamburguesa con queso. Ay gracias, San Francisco! I’m Flavio! Get home safe, but not before buying a “Snap, what?” shirt by the door! And THAT’S an hamburguesa con queso!” Like if he’s not saying word-for-word –exactly that– in the first screenshot, I will drink this entire can of Mocha De La Creme Ready-to-Drink Wet Asshole Gin Cocktail.
Brockway: I should probably be worried that this is racially insensitive, but mostly I just want to find a way to say I’m on that Duolingo lesson, too. I’ll try to work sandwich de pescado in here somewhere.
Seanbaby: So you’re telling me Jessica’s main personality traits are “Has no idea her husband is gay,” and “Uses drugs and alcohol to cope with how the first one’s not true?” Great. But this casting choice seems to demonstrate how few women the producers know. This actress is a Cat Mom or a Bride’s Friend #7, not a Death-Spiralling Junkie. Her copy should say:
Brockway: Jessica, you’re going to die in episode two in some kind of mechanical bull accident just to show Merrick that being true to yourself is the most important thing of all. And he’s not going to learn that, so he’ll die an episode later to that same bull. You’re both duds. Dead, dead duds.
Not like this delicious sandwich de pe-
No, I’m forcing it. I’m sorry. It’ll happen organically.
Brockway: He looks like he’s finding out about the second part of his character description right there in that frame. Holy shit, can Dante… can Dante read his own subtitles? Is Dante the fourth-wall breaking Deadpool of the Cocktails universe? Quick, jump down and warn Shimon that the Rabbi suspects! The Rabbi suspects!
Seanbaby: What’s a dream that would require your lover to never sing again? Another vocalist up for a spot in Bearmeat Danny and the Doughy Bad Beards? An aspiring podcaster sharing a studio apartment? Being a guy whose dying wish was for Dante to shut the fuck up? YoU gAve uP a gREat sInGIng caReEr tO MaKe YoUr lOVEr’s drEaM cOme tRUe? Dante, your bio sounds like a Facebook message you wrote after someone from glee club asked if you still sing.
Seanbaby: So Rosa is a lesbian. And her girlfriend, Jet, is a man, but only when she’s hiding from her drug dealer or her in-laws. I guess I get it, but I’m worried the writer doesn’t? This isn’t so much a spectrum of sexuality as a series of puzzles and tricks. Like a corn maze with a nude intruder.
Brockway: No I got it, she’s a lesbian who thinks she’s falling in love with a man and reconsidering her sexuality but she shouldn’t, because that man is a woman so actually — wait, she could think she’s straight but then falls in love with the woman behind the man she… Look, it’s just C-talk, baby.
This is already seven more characters than any show in history. Are we getting close to done?
Seanbaby: We’re not even done with the characters who are also other characters.
Seanbaby: This motherfucker’s real name is the sound Michael Jackson made when he grabbed his dick and he decided to call his shock jock character “SHOCK JOCK?” Who’s your co-host? A guy named Mamasaymamasaw Mamamoosah whose Habesha family doesn’t know he’s “CONTROVERSIAL SIDEKICK?” And who’s your band leader? “CARLOS HORNBLOW? He is the greatest trumpet player in the world… but El Cartel has sworn to kill his daughter if he ever plays again?”
Brockway: I’m not going to make fun. Sometimes when I can’t think of a character name I write a placeholder and forget about it, too. It sucks when you submit a manuscript and the editor tells you she doesn’t get how EXTREMELY HORNY ULTIMATE WARRIOR DON’T FORGET TO FIX THIS is relevant to Janet’s emotional arc.
Seanbaby: Seriously, though, what a revealing look into a lazy writer’s process this is. It’s like the only work he did was an hour of inserting his karaoke friends into a spreadsheet and he’s sure the show is all but made. I feel like I’m reading a sidebar under the words “Meet the characters from Rob Liefeld’s All-New X-N-Forcers, bursting into a comic shop near you in Fall of 1999!”
Brockway: Okay, I’m here now. I’m in the river of characters that is Cocktails. The river that will never end, that will flow forever, the river I was born in and that I float in now and will one day die in, washed until I disintegrate and my bones tumble to pieces so that the fish may feed so that the fisherman may feed on the fish. I am the sandwich de pescado. I am to be devoured and shat and flushed into the river again, because this is all there is. It’s only the river. There has never been anything but the Cocktails roll call.
Seanbaby: Weird. I haven’t noticed any effects from reading all these mysterious twists…
… while on the trail of the shark who knows my father’s real name.
Seanbaby: Great job, MIKE LARSEN. From among this massive group of uninteresting community theater actors, you’re the one that made the director say, “This guy is perfect for the role I didn’t come up with anything cool for.” All of these characters manage a gay bar in San Francisco and have parents who hate them. This is like being introduced with Rob Liefeld’s X-N-Forcers and your only power is “shares an outdoor space with the X-N-Forcers.”
Brockway: What happened here? I feel like a template fucked up. Ron Merk had a spreadsheet with 940 characters and seventeen thousand random personality traits ranging from hard drugs to sex to shapeshifter, and somebody forgot to fill out Mike Larsen. Even his name sucks. Mike Larsen is the guy in front of you at the DMV who wants to know the history of license plates. Mike Larsen is the sound you make as you barely orgasm from difficult masturbation. Mike Larsen is so forgettable that it’s… suspicious.
Oh. Mike Larsen is the serial killer. Chuck! Look down, you were right! He was within eyeshot!
Brockway: Holy shit the guy trying to kill Jet is also Rosa’s cousin! Everything is related to everything. This is a nest of snakes eating each other and themselves. This whole show is just a gay remix of the “I’m My Own Grandpa” song.
Seanbaby: “Rosa, your new boyfriend… Jet. He seems ah… familiar. He reminds me of a… woman I once knew. And I notice he ah… purchased your tampons quickly as if he knew the type to get and did not have to read the box. Curious. Perhaps it is nothing. Or perhaps I, the murderer hunting a woman with your boyfriend’s face, will pursue this suspicion more and more over the course of the season.”
Brockway: …She’s learning pottery!
Fucking Cousin Shelly, we have like eighteen gay drug dealing hard murderers living quintuple lives – you cannot be coy with your twist this late in the game.
Seanbaby: She’s the only one not actively abusing drugs or murdering, and in the context of Cocktails that counts as “a wonderful secret.”
Brockway: Wait, was that Cousin Shelley’s wonderful secret? Because that is a starting point for like four characters already. “Used to be a man” is nothing — that’s the setup for the audience to be stunned when slide two reveals you’re actually six drones working the strings of a man-sized puppet in the shape of the hottest bartender at SnaXXX. And Papa Behr gets no description? He’s trying to slide through here on Cousin Shelley’s non-secret? You’re both dead in episode one. Cold open. You’re the victims that send Detective Chuck O’Brien on his quest for justice and just ass.
Seanbaby: Any writer who names the group’s gay patriarch character “Papa Behr” definitely has a men’s choir named “Perfect Har-Men-y.” This is something Rob Liefeld would name a guy with bear hands. I’m surprised Shelley didn’t end up getting called “Mommy Gary.”
Seanbaby: The Amulet of Mill Valley lies unclaimed, for while DJ CALIFORNIA is taking female lovers, no one is working to solve the ancient riddle tattooed on his back.
Brockway: DJ California, the Californian DJ, sat down to write a list of potential DJ names for his gigs in California. It was one entry long. “Guess I’m going with DJ California,” he said, to nobody.
Seanbaby: Hey, Eric Ortiz, if you list how you have sex third in your bio after your side gig? You’re not fucking enough. If I was in Cocktails, it would say “SEANBABY – Power fucks you right in your face and writer. There are no limits to his dreams.”
Brockway: “BROCKWAY: Cries before, during, and after — not for himself, but for the genitals he’s destroyed and writer. Once saw two cats that looked alike!”
Seanbaby: That’s it? He’s a drug dealing photographer about to get a killer career opportunity? And “killer” isn’t in quotes? I guess I can solve that mystery then– he’s going to get asked to deal more drugs or take more photographs. John Padderson should team up with Mike Larsen to form some kind of Least Interesting Gays squad. “Mike, I’m home! With good news and Olive Garden. You didn’t finish the puzzle without me, did you? We are having a mild autumn. Did you get my text about the Real Housewives meme but the cat is Garfield.”
Brockway: Okay, now I’m torn. I don’t know much about Ron Merk – I know he knows upwards of fifty-seven gay men willing to be on camera for four seconds each and he’s destined to write this generation’s Gone With the Wind — but I also just feel it to be true that he’s the kind of guy who puts every pun in quotation marks. Maybe also italics, if he’s feeling saucy. If ‘killer’ is not a pun, then the twist of this show is that there are actually two serial murderers hiding in plain sight. I hope they hook up.
Seanbaby: You might remember Wayne Doyle from earlier as the daddy haunted by his son’s suicide. Anyway, it’s sweet when an age-inappropriate romance can blossom between a man with crippling son issues and a man with crippling father issues. I think a psychologist would explain this relationship as not unlike a heroin addict fucking heroin’s sister.
Brockway: This is the creepiest and most confusing relationship dynamic since those two basic bitch serial killers found love in the… last section? That was only one section ago? I am losing touch with time. How long have we been here? Are we dead? I feel like Cocktails is trying to subtly tell us that we might be dead so we can move on to the light without excess trauma.
Brockway: Okay yeah, we’re dead. We’re dead and we’ve accidentally(?) been sent to Gay Limbo. I get it. You didn’t have to make me feel stupid about it, Cocktails.
Seanbaby: Torch songs are usually about a longing for someone who will never love you back, so I think I’ve figured out why Pearl Lee and her man are having so many problems. Or she just likes to make karaoke less fun? Presumably some of these characters have to be “Mariah Carey fan gay” and not “Cocaine sex kidnapper gay.”
Brockway: I am not at all confident in that presumption.
Brockway: “Mr. The Weasel, your closing statements please.”
Seanbaby: I fully admit I have lost my mind. I made this:
Brockway: You’re not going to believe me when I tell you I did not make this:
So it goes 27 hard druggin’ hard bangin’ gay men trying to find themselves and then Italian FBI Street Samurai? Where the fuck does Tina Antonucci fit into this dynamic? How is she going to interact with literally any other character? Pearl Lee Gaytes is just good at karaoke. DJ California is the kind of human CalorieMate that plays Semisonic when it’s last call. What the fuck are they going to say to Special Agent Tanya Bushido? “Got any sword polishing tips?” That’s cute one time, Cocktails.
Brockway: So several dozen gay men wrestling with their identities, one razorgirl, and now a psychic archangel of the lord? This took such a hard turn from San Francisco’s Sex In The City straight into homosexual Shadowrun. Wait, was Cocktails not being metaphorical when it called Tina part angel? When it said Pearl Lee Gaytes has been to hell and back?! Holy shit is this the gay Supernatural we’ve always needed but never deserved??? Sorry, I mean the gayer Supernatural we’ve always needed but never deserved???
Seanbaby: It’s some kind of miracle that after 780 characters of escalating derangement, Ron Merk still didn’t come close to setting this up. This is nonsense. The only character who even has a religion is Shock Jock, and it’s the wrong one and only for a couple hours a day. Gabriel’s slide might as well say:
Brockway: THE ACTUAL DEVIL! The final character in Cocktails’ exhaustive list of the colorful San Francisco bar scene is the literal biblical devil. I’m assuming they’re not even being cute about telling us he’s a top. Every pitch should end with “oh yeah, AND THE DEVIL.” You name me one show that is not dramatically approved by the logline ending in unexpected Satan.
During a government experiment into time travel, a scientist finds himself trapped in the past, “leaping” into the bodies of different people on a regular basis and sorting out their problems, while accompanied by his wise-cracking sidekick, THE ACTUAL DEVIL.
Eight year-old orphan Beth Harmon is quiet, sullen, and by all appearances unremarkable. That is, until she plays her first game of chess. Her senses grow sharper, her thinking clearer, and for the first time in her life she feels herself fully in control of THE ACTUAL DEVIL.
No ordinary teenager; Raven Baxter can see glimpses of the future! Watch her schemes and misadventures as she enlists the help of friends, including best friends Eddie, Chelsea, and THE ACTUAL DEVIL. That’s So Satan, coming this fall!